CrossFit Games

2022 CrossFit Semifinals Preview: Granite Games

June 1, 2022 by
Photo courtesy of CrossFit LLC
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Week 3 of the North American Semifinals brings us to Eagan, MN for the 11th iteration of the Granite Games. Just like last year, the Minnesota Vikings Training Center, will play host to this storied event where athletes will compete in an outdoor venue throughout the weekend for their opportunity to qualify for the 2022 NOBULL CrossFit Games.

Last year’s individual and team champions were seeded into different Semifinals, so Granite Games will crown new winners in all three divisions; let’s take a look at the field overview:

  • Games Experience: In the men’s field there are seven individual CrossFit Games veterans, five of whom have multiple years of Games experience: Brent Fikowski (6), Travis Mayer (6), Tim Paulson (5), Sam Kwant (4), Chandler Smith (3)
  • Colten Mertens qualified from the Granite Games last year for his rookie Games appearance.
  • Zachary Buntin made the Games in 2019 but did not advance past the First Cut
  • Only five women have previous individual CrossFit Games experience:
  • Amanda Barnhart (with 4) is the most experienced Games athlete in the field.
  • Dani Speegle has three Games qualifications, but has only completed a total of 13 workouts over those three years, seven of which were online in 2020. She has never finished a full live CrossFit Games.
  • Emily Rolfe has two trips to the Games and has finishes of 15th (2021) and 18th (2019).
  • Mallory O’Brien came in second at the Granite Games last year and 7th at the Games earning rookie of the year.
  • Lastly, Fee Saghafi qualified in 2019 and placed 24th.

The team division has some heavy-hitting team lineups near the top of the Quarterfinals qualification spots, and then a significant drop off in terms of name recognition that will leave the door wide open for a team or two to sneak into the final qualifying spots.

Men

Let’s get straight to it, this is going to be a tough field to qualify in. Fikowski, Mayer, Chandler Smith, Kwant, and Paulson, at their best, should be able to qualify in any North American semifinal field. That’s five spots already.

However, up and coming Brute Strength athlete Phil Toon is coming off a very impressive 6th place finish at Wodapalooza where he beat all three Panchiks, Jayson Hopper, Colten Mertens, Tyler Christophel, Paulson, James Sprague, Alex Vigneault, Uldis Upenieks, and a host of other athletes who are relevant in Semifinals. He had event finishes of 2nd, 2nd, 3rd, 3rd and 6th, offset by a 26th and a 33rd. He won’t be able to afford bad workouts like that this weekend. But if he can string together a series of top 5 finishes he’ll be in the mix for sure.

So, Shoo-Ins?… I don’t see any in this field. Everyone is going to have to earn it.

Bubble Athletes: Because there are no shoo-ins, everyone listed above is in the Games Expectations category, meaning we’ll jump straight into bubble athletes.

Last year’s 5th and 6th place finishers at Granite Games were Mertens and Nick Mathew, they were only separated by three points, meaning Mertens went to the Games and Mathew to the LCQ; they are both back in this field last year.

Another 6th place finisher from Semifinals last year, Tyler Eggiman (MACC), is in this field, as is Underdogs athlete Matt Dlugos, and last year’s record setter in the Snatch event Anthony Davis.

The whole men’s field is a wild card, and with so many different skill sets and body types amongst them, the programming will be massively significant in terms of deciding who gets those Games spots.

Women

Shoo-Ins: The women’s field is wildly different from the mens. With the somewhat controversial change of Semifinals for 2022 world wide Open and North American Quarterfinal Champion, Mallory O’Brien, she becomes a shoo-in for the women’s side and removes some hope of the bubble athletes who thought there was one additional spot to contend for.

Outside of her, Amanda Barnhart, is also as good as a shoo-in here. Her Games resume is impressive, and that means she also knows how to get there. Look for the two of them to run away from most of the field.

Games Expectations: Despite her lack of performance once she makes the Games, there’s no denying that Dani Speegle is good at qualifying for it. Many will remember that she took a nearly last-place finish on the ruck run at West Coast Classic last year, however she balanced that out with finishes of 6th place or better on the other six workouts.

Additionally, the lone Canadian in the field for the women, Emily Rolfe should be set up for a great weekend. She qualified 4th online in the Atlas Games last year, but does have some Regionals experience to her name having placed 9th in the West Regional in 2017. She’s a veteran who understands how to manage this kind of competition and will have that in her favor against a much more inexperienced field.

Bubble Athletes: This is where things will get interesting for the women as many of the ladies listed in this section are on the verge of doing great things. There is at least one spot open for the taking here, and these are the athletes who will believe it is within their grasp.

The veteran of this group is Fee Saghafi, she’s only 27, but she has done several competitions, including the 2019 CrossFit Games in the last few years including four Sanctionals and Wodapalooza this off-season where she placed 8th (one spot ahead of Rolfe).

Twenty-four year old Kloie Wilson, 22 year-old Caroline Stanley, and 20 year-old Alex Gazan (Willis) are three other names you’ll want to keep your eye on. All three are clearly young, and each has potential to break out this weekend.

Lastly there’s 31 year-old Kelly Stone, who like Wilson made the Last Chance Qualifier last season proving her prowess to be knocking at the door for Games spots at one of these events.

Wild card: Although each of the women already listed has more CrossFit experience than her, Sydney Wells will likely get a lot of love and fan support this weekend; being twins with Brooke Wells will do that for you. Sydney has more going for her than just being Brooke’s sister though, she was 14th at West Coast Classic last year (her first major live competition), and racked up three consecutive top ten finishes in the middle of the weekend. You can bet she’s improved on some things this year, and it seems the learning curve is accelerated for her. How good has she gotten this year is a question many are asking, and the answer isn’t too far off now.

Teams

As mentioned in the intro, there are some very notable names on some teams (new and old) that should be near the top of the leaderboard throughout the weekend:

  • CrossFit Invictus will come in as the competition favorites. They were champions at the West Coast Classic last year, and return three of their four athletes. They add Joshua Al-Chamaa to an already impressive team; and his individual accolades are the best of the group. They underperformed relative to their expectations at the Games taking 19th, so expect a fire to be lit for Invictus this entire season.
  • CrossFit Move Fast Lift Heavy was at Granite Games last year and qualified, but you won’t see them on the Games leaderboard. One of their female athletes failed a drug test leaving the rest of them with nothing to do but get ready for the 2022 season. Both of their men (Christian Harris and Will Carter) are back, this time with Nicole Soto and Winter Nicolette Rodriguez. That’s a lot of competition experience on one team; the story for them will be how much they can challenge Invictus for the top spot.
  • CrossFit OBA is a newly created team this year with four experienced and impressive athletes on it. Niklas Hecht was on OBA last year and his team took 8th in Quarterfinals but did not compete in Semis. Joey Tortora was a part of the Central Beasts team during the Sanctional years, they took 5th in 2019. Kelsey Kiel has two years of team experience under her belt with Invictus Back Bay and Invictus Boston in 2018 and 2019 respectively. And finally Ashleigh Wosny who took second in the teenage division at the Games in 2015 and then reappeared with Reebok CrossFit ONE’s team that took second in the East Regional and 12th at the Games in 2018.
  • CrossFit Greater Heights Ascend is led by the vastly underrated Jordan Cook who has two individual and two team appearances at the CrossFit Games. His team, Don’t Stop, placed 6th in back to back years in 2018 and 2019. The other male, Duncan Mulleady, placed 13th in North America team Quarterfinals last season. The women are Emily Tanner, who was on Salt Lake City’s Games team that placed 19th in 2017, and Kelly Baker, who interestingly also placed 19th with CrossFit Parallax at the Games back in 2016. A lot of experience on this team should keep them in contention throughout.

The rest of the field is pretty wide-open. It is notable that CrossFit Invictus Unconquerable is in this field too. Their Quarterfinals performance was underwhelming at 36th in North America. But the Semifinal tests will be vastly different. Don’t be surprised if they perform a bit better in live competition. A few other notable teams in this field who might make it tough for them are Lone Star CrossFit Red and CrossFit Reignited ILM, both of whom placed in the top 20 at the Games last year.

This is a strong team quarterfinal field. All five teams who make it through will be more than qualified to compete at the Games come August.

Brian’s Projections:

Granite Men

Granite Women

Granite Teams

1

Brent Fikowski

Mallory O’Brien

CrossFit Invictus

2

Phil Toon

Amanda Barnhart

CrossFit Move Fast Lift Heavy

3

Travis Mayer

Alex Gazan

CrossFit OBA

4

Chandler Smith

Dani Speegle

Crossfit Greater Heights Ascend

5

Tim Paulson

Emily Rolfe

CrossFit Invictus Unconquerable

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